Democratic Alliance Gauteng caucus leader Jack Bloom. Picture: THE TIMES
Democratic Alliance Gauteng caucus leader Jack Bloom. Picture: THE TIMES

More resources would help reduce the number of newborn deaths at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto‚ where about 1‚900 babies are delivered a month.

That is the view of DA MPL Jack Bloom‚ who visited the neonatal and maternity departments of the Johannesburg hospital with MPL Dr Neil Campbell, on Wednesday.

"My view is that it is a disgrace that the maternity and neonatal units at this hospital have not been renovated and expanded despite many announcements about this over many years‚" he said in a statement on Thursday.

"The corridors and cubicles are dingy‚ which is not pleasant for staff and patients. Staff do their best under the circumstances. They have a good spirit and do what they can under adverse conditions. They are distressed when they get blamed for things that are out of their control."

The hospital should ideally deliver no more than 1‚400 babies a month‚ he said.

"These are mostly complicated cases that cannot be dealt with by a lower level hospital or clinic. About 12% of patients are foreign-born‚ some of whom come directly to give birth at the hospital."

There are 18 ICU beds for babies‚ but there should be 24 to 30 ICU beds.

"Broken equipment is not repaired speedily because of lack of budget or companies not paid for their services. Current broken equipment includes radiant warmers‚ incubators‚ CritiCool machines to cool babies‚ monitors and ventilators‚" he said.

Bloom said most infant deaths at the facility were due to premature births and infections‚ which were related as a low birth weight babies had weak immune systems.

"I was disturbed to hear that some of the infections are due to babies being placed too close to each other. This is something that needs to be fixed urgently‚ and we heard that there are plans to expand and renovate the unit‚" he said.

The easiest fixes in the short term‚ he added‚ were staff vacancies and repairing broken equipment.

The maternity unit delivers the most babies in South Africa: 61‚507 infants between 2014 and 2016‚ of which 1‚338 (2%) died.

"Many of the baby deaths cannot be avoided because of adverse factors‚ but the death rate can definitely be brought down by expanding capacity in staff‚ equipment and facilities‚" Bloom said.

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